Subject: Ball lightning
Date: Tue, 30 May 95 9:43:47 BST
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Thanks for your comments Richard. I dug out the book and read the rather vague
description of the experiment which I have committed to memory and now reproduce
here, with background information:
The experiments were performed by a French chap called Plante. He had invented
what was then called a 'Secondary Element' comprising two lead plates in a
dilute sulphuric acid solution (sounds familiar?!)...
'Plante used batteries of up to 800 elements in his experiments. In one
experiment, employing a battery of 200 elements, he reported a phenomenon
resembling ball lightning. If the negative wire of the battery be immersed in
a vessel of acidulated or salt water, and the positive wire be made to approach
the surface of the liquid, then a glowing ball of light and swirling vapour is formed about the positive electrode. This is seen to flatten out [parallel to the
liquid surface] as time passes. The phenomenon is accompanied by a considerable amount of noise.'
That is about as specific as the description gets, and there are three
illustrations accompanying the text. The final one relates to a similar
experiment using an elongated electrode. The resultant effect was reported to
resemble 'the formation of breakers by a spring tide.' I should stress that
none of these experiments appear to involve large metal plates in the water, but
literally just two pieces of wire. The text does not say whether or not the
elements were in series or in parallel, although I could dream up a few good
experiments with over thirty car batteries, no matter how they were wired up!
I hope this may be of interest to you...